In India, it’s customary for people to take calls on their mobile phones even when they’re busy in meetings or while they’re driving – most often only to tell the caller party that they’re busy at the moment and will call back later. Somehow, activating voicemail and leaving a signon message to do the same thing in an automated manner, is not common. Even the few people, including me, who’ve a functioning voicemail on their mobile phones rarely find a message in their voicemail boxes from any caller from India.
Coming from such backgrounds, telemarketers and inside sales people tend to get put off when they hit their contacts’ voicemails while running telephone campaigns to target markets in the US or Europe.
They shouldn’t be.
Whether it’s due to fundamental cultural differences or simply because they’ve being using mobile phones for a longer period and have by now realized the efficiency (and safety, like while driving) of using voicemail, many people in the Western world use voicemails extensively – both to receive and to leave messages. Letting a call go to their voicemails is not a sign of disrespect or lack of interest in talking to you. In fact, I know some people who virtually let all incoming calls go to their voicemail box but listen to the messages immediately after the call ends. Again, if the voicemail is clear and detailed enough, they go ahead and take action on the basis of the message instead of waiting to speak to the caller. In some places, middle-aged decision makers might accord greater priority to voicemails than to emails. As an extreme example, take for instance Hank Paulson, who was the Chairman of Goldman Sachs before he became the Treasury Secretary of the United States. In a FORTUNE magazine interview a few years ago, he averred that he never used emails, instead doing 80-90 voicemails per day on an average.
While it’s ideal to get through to a prospect on the other end of the telephone (“live call”), telemarketers and inside sales personnel should accept voicemail as a way of doing business in many parts of the world. Instead of getting disheartened by it, they should actively seek ways to invoke the desired response to their voicemail messages. For starters, they need to do better than to leave a staid message saying they’d called and could the prospect please call them back: Not many people call back without a good enough reason. Just as telemarketers and inside sales staff hope to get responses to their emails, they should embrace voicemail messages to trigger calls to action. At the same time, since voicemail is a very different mode of communication compared to email, a verbal rendition of an email won’t work as a voicemail message.
By crafting good voicemail messages, and delivering them effectively, it’s not only possible to invoke some form of action but to actually generate better responses from voicemails than from emails. In a sequel to this post, we’ll share our thoughts and experiences about doing that. Watch this space…